“There are those who say fate is something beyond our command. That destiny is not our own, but I know better.
Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it.”
– Merida of Disney’s cartoon, Brave.
Aye! Who wouldn’t love a Scottish accent!?! I am glad that I visited Edinburgh and Stirling during my UK holiday, because even it was just a short 4-day visit, it was still worth it! And yes, their accent is indeed contagious! ;)
Coming from England, Laurie cannot come with me to Edinburgh anymore as he needed to stay longer In England for his friend’s birthday and must go to France soon after. I decided to go to Edinburgh and travel ALONE! Aside from I’ve done traveling alone before, it felt at that time like I needed some time alone (slash-away-from-Laurie hehe) as I haven’t done it for a long time now.
I am not entirely alone, because my friend introduced me to one of her friends, who is currently studying in Edinburgh. Vladimir was very helpful to make my Scotland experience worthwhile! I stayed at his apartment with another nice flatmate and he showed me around Edinburgh without spending any penny (except for our food and beers!).
He also took me to a jazz festival where I saw him swinging with his peers, and that was really brilliant! Something I must learn :P On my last night, we saw a concert of a contemporary reggae/ska band from Toulouse (France) and that was a crazy band! I really had fun!
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, where ancient history meets a vibrant modern city in a very Scottish setting. It is also called as the “Athens of the North” because of the ancient architecture you will still see around the city as shops, restaurants and pubs. Most of this are in UNESCO World Heritage. I remember a friend once told me when she visited the city that it was like walking in Harry Potter’s “Diagon Alley” everywhere! And she was right with her description!
It is the best city to start with when you want to see Scotland and its highlands, or nearby Lothians, where you can see a beautiful coast and countryside of Scotland and gives you a very Scottish atmosphere! From tartan and bagpipes, kilts, scotch and whisky, William Wallace (the real one, and not the Braveheart! Lol!), the Hairy Coo, lochs, and haggis!
Apart from that, Edinburgh is known as a literary capital of the English-speaking world. It has been the home and inspiration for such well-known modern writers like Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) Robert Louis Stevenson (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), even Charles Darwin! (theory of natural selection) and of course JK Rowling (Harry Potter).
I’ve also found a pub named after the murderers, Burke and Hare, who killed people and delivered fresh corpses for medical research, I’ve seen this gory movie but I liked it because they’ve done it in black comedy haha!
There is no better way to see Edinburgh than to walk. Edinburgh walking directions can be planned online with the http://www.walkit.com or join the walk tours.
As for me, I am fortunate to have Valdimir showing me around. On my first day, we finished the night in an outdoor pub with his university friends. For the first time during this UK summer trip, I felt really cold! And I am with people just wearing their shirts and shorts! They say (again) I am lucky with the weather, they it’s rare for them to be drinking outside a pub as it’s always cold there. They’re really tough!
The next day, we just walked around to see most of the sights and major tourist attractions within the Old Town and New Town. We started to walk towards Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that offers panoramic views of the city from its summit.
Then we walked along Princes Street going towards the Edinburgh Castle, the home to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, in which I have yet to see the next time I plan to come back in Edinburgh. The castle is located on one of the highest points in the city.
Along Royal Mile are array of restaurant, souvenir shops, street performers, artists, etc. It was a good stroll, until we stopped to a pub and tried one of Scotland’s dish, the haggis! Haggis is a pudding or sometimes a sausage-type containing sheep’s internal organs, served with mashed potatoes and onion gravy. Not a big fan, but a must-try!
The Scots are well known for anything fried food which is why they have deep fried pizza, deep fried hamburgers, and even deep fried Mars bars! When I was in England, I’ve only tried fish and chips once, so Laurie told me to make sure I’ll try it in Scotland, and I did! They call it “chippy” or “salt&sauce” because instead of vinegar, they use this HP-like vinegar brown sauce.
On my third day, I decided to see the highlands! I joined this FREE Highlands Tour of Hairy Coo as recommended by Tripadvisor. Yes you read it right, it is free! However, tour is that good that everyone will end up paying the tour just like me!
Check their website HERE.
Meeting point along the Royal Mile is very easy to find, (Deacon’s Café) I even got their earlier because I thought I might get lost just walking from Vladimir’s place. Donald is the name our guide, wearing a traditional kilt, he’s very witty and knowledgeable with the Scottish side stories of its history, like the truth behind the life of William Wallace (Scotland’s national hero)and Hollywood’s inaacurate representation of his life in the film, Braveheart. But I still love that film! ;)
Our guide is a music enthusiast too so I enjoyed the authentic Scottish music he plays because he tells the stories too behind every song. The whole trip was worth it! We covered a LOT of places that a paid tour covers as well. And I think, only this tour goes to a place where you can find hairy coos! Not just the celebrity ones hehe. Hairy Coos are highland cattle of a Scottish breed of cattle with long horns and long wavy coats, which are coloured black or orange.
We’ve seen the following during this highland tour:
Forth Bridge – is one of the old world famous bridge because it’s the longest single cantilever bridge span in the world, it took 7 years to complete it where lots of workers died.
National Wallace Monument in Stirling – is a tower at Abbey Craig,to honor the national hero of Scotland, William Wallace, who won a battle against England at the Striing Bridge.
Stirling Castle – we stopped by the road just to get a glimpse of this castle, it is one of the largest castles in Scotland, that sits atop Castle Hill.
Aberfoyle – we had our lunch break in this highland village, which is really serene and beautiful! It is called as “The Gateway to the Trossachs”. We stayed for an hour and I enjoyed strolling around in this small town. It is also home to longest zip-line in the UK.
Trossachs – is called as the “Scotland in miniature” because of the mountains, lochs and glens (valleys) you will see around it. We stayed for nearly an hour at Loch Katrine, and it was a relaxing walk around, I just wish I was with a friend so I can share my amusement of the place!
Doune Castle – is a film setting for Monty Python’s King Arthur story, however, I am more interested on it because of the Game of Thrones! It is used as the castle in Winterfell ;)
That sums up the highlights of my Scotland trip!
It was supposed to be a week visit, but since my friend was not in town that time anyway, I met a fellow traveler and told me about the Game of Thrones trip in Northern Ireland, and have told me that I can join them if I want to, of course I wanted to! So my original Scotland’s week holiday was cut into almost half. I can just go back again to Scotland again, perhaps to see the Military Tattoo or the Fringe Festival!
I called Laurie just to let him know that I decided to go to Belfast. He was a bit wary of my sudden decision, but I made him feel that it’s okay and I will be fine, brave enough to go alone. (The story of this Belfast trip is on my next story/blog.)
Sometimes, being brave is scary. I have done traveling alone in the past and it was very liberating, especially in Europe for an Asian like me. After that adventurous trip, the self-fulfillment I got from being brave is something that I can hold on for the rest of my life — that I have done something great for myself outside my comfort zone.
As what Disney’s Merida says – our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it. You have to have the courage to bravely do things on your own no matter how scary it may seem. If we don’t do what we want, if we don’t take risk in life and if we just wait what your fate brings you, that “fate” that you are waiting to come, may not come at all…